msnbc | November 23, 2012
>>> breaking news to share with you. less than 48 hours after a cease fire was announced, fighting has broken out. he's facing violent protests in his own country for granting himself sweeping powers that exempt him from legal challenges. joining me by phone from cairo, nbc's correspondent jim masseda. let's talk about what sparked these protests. is it all over morsi granting himself these further powers?
>> reporter: yes, alex, it is about that. he came out, by the way, a good hour ago to talk, to speechify about the presidential powers. that's about four or five miles away from what you're describing, which is at tahrir square, the famous tahrir square. morsi spoke to his supporters saying that he had to do this to break really what is a log jam in writing up a new constitution. he was saying much of the judiciary are very honorable people but there are five or six or seven bad eggs, if you will. these are remnants of the mubarak regime and they're constantly interfering with the process. meanwhile, the country is continuing to be mired in poverty, a lack of social justice and what have you. so he says to protect the revolution, to protect the principles of the revolution and to protect this country's forward movement towards democracy he needed to do this to keep the constitution and the writing of the constitution moving forward.
>> now, jim , if he does this, it's been reported he says he will do this just as long as he needs to do it, that it is a temporary situation. what are the guarantees, if any, that are in place that after getting used to that level of power he would then seed that's what he's trying to get today?
>> reporter: and that's it. that is the whole question and the whole issue in a nutshell. egyptians who are so used to power grabbing in this country are just -- they're just not buying it. we're talking about the liberal secular groups who, by the way, even are boycotting the writing of the constitution. they're not taking part because they were complaining that the islamists were controlling because they are the majority party they were controlling the writing of the coops city tuesday and there was no rendering anyone who wasn't islamist . morsi is saying and he repeated it that once the constitution is written and passed by a referendum, everything else will fall into place . there will be a judiciary, and a parliament because it will be the rule of law. again, that's based on sheer faith at this point. people just aren't trustful of people in power who are given power to expect them to relinquish it after x number of weeks or months. it just has never been seen before.
>> right. all right, jim maceda updating us on all that's happening in tahrir square, and elsewhere in cities like alexandra. jim , thank you so much.
>>> from there we head to gaza where we find ayman mull had a dean. does it threaten to stabilize the delicate questionable cease fire that he's supposed to help oversee?
>> reporter: well, in the short term, not necessarily. you will see and hear from people that would make the argument that egypt 's stability in having tranquil domestic stability inside egypt is paramount for egypt to play the role that it can play in the region. when we saw in the past week egypt rise to the forefront of mediating between israel and the palestinian factions, it was because egypt at that particular point was not -- president morrissey's hand to put leverage on them. it's a political organization from which mohammed morsi comes from. stability will have long term and regional implications for all of the issues. but in terms of immediate truce, right now it is about what's happening on the ground be in gaza and right now that is not necessarily directly linked.
>> all right, everyone. we were listening there to nbc's ayman and we're taking satellite hits. this conflict is raising a question concerning security in the middle east . the role iran played with arming hamas and its own stand offwith israel . joining me is dennis ross of the washington institute for institutional policy. dennis, welcome. let's talk about the role that iran played in this conflict over the last eight, nine days. iron that out for me.
>> i think we have to put it into larger perspective. i don't think they've played a role over the last few days. all the arms that, in fact, islamist jihad and others why gaza were using, almost all of them were coming from the iranians. they have built up a long range rocket capacity. that's what the israelis went after. they have done everything they could to make gaza an armed island that can be a platform for an attack against israel . they have constantly encouraged attacks against israel . iran has played a major role in terms of being the provider of the arsenal that existed there. my guess is they will now try to replenish it because the israelis have stepped back that arsenal in a fairly significant way.
>> what about the suggestion that israel was doing all of this and while doing this over the last eight, nine days they were testing out the resources that hamas has and those being supported and supplied by iran ? i mean, in that sense did iran play its role?
>> well, again, i think we have to put it in some perspective. israel acted because they were not prepared to allow hamas to create what i call a new normal, meaning that you can't have a cease fire and hamas decides or islamist jihad decides they will disrupt whenever they want to. you can't fire rockets on an increasingly shorter interval so that they have their life constantly disrupted. the israelis saw this taking place and hamas was having more involvement in the attacks. the israelis decided they could not allow hamas to basically develop what amounted to a new normal. that's what drove the israelis to act, not a preoccupation that somehow this was going to allow them to test what they could do or disarm hamas in advance of a move against iran . does it have some ancillary benefit in that regard? it may well have had. the key driver was much more facing what was an increasingly intolerable situation where a good part of the population could not live normal lives.
>> the ancillary benefit, might that apply to the iron dome ? it thwarted the majority of the rockets and how does that relate to any future potential iranian conflict?
>> well, the one thing to bear in mind is that you've got an extraordinary demonstration of the iron dome 's effectiveness. from that standpoint everyone else in the region saw that as well. bear in mind the iron dome is effective against short range rockets and not against the rockets that the iranians might be sending from iran or even a lot of the rockets that hezbollah mighten sending from the north that is longer range. if you are going to have a missile defense , it has to deal with short range rockets , medium range rockets and longer range ones. iron dome is effective against the longer range. and in conjunction with working with us, they will be more effective against the medium range and longer range. still, the radar systems that integrate these operations are effective for all and the israelis got a very good demonstration of that, as did we. we helped in the development of this. also it helps us as we look at some of the rocket threats that our forces can face around the globe and particularly in the region.
>> dennis, i know you've been following that which is going on in tahrir square and elsewhere in egypt . you have president morsi facing trouble in his own backyard. does that undermine his ability to be an effective mediator in any general area of middle east negotiations?
>> well, it certainly undercuts a little bit of the luster that one saw emerge for president morsi this week. suddenly he thrusts egypt on to a role that historically it has played but did not play the last few years of the mubarak regime. he was put in a position where he was re-establishing the stature that he has often known and obviously sees itself as deserving within the region. now the fact that he's facing what are real questions having real challenges within egypt are a reminder that no one that is going to govern in egypt today can do so without regard to the egyptian public. you have a public that didn't have a voice for four years. it's demonstrated that it could remove an egyptian leader and the idea that somehow it will lose its voice if its needs and aspiration are not addressed, we've seen a reminder that that's not going to be the case. president morsi still will be able to do things i think within the region. first and fear most he has to demonstrate that he can address the problems at home.
>> dennis ross , many thanks for weighing in. appreciate that.